Hello 1950

“Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don’t marry a woman with a career.”

That’s right kids! Career women are bad for your marriage! This Forbes article makes such a dazzling array of offensive assumptions that it actually, literally, boggled my mind, which rarely happens. I snorted once about halfway down the page and spent the rest of the article with my jaw open.

It seems the rest of the internet agreed with me, because within hours the original article had been pulled altogether. Forbes admitted that the article met with “heated opinion.” Later on Wednesday evening, the article reappeared in a point-counterpoint format. Forbes also pulled another piece by the same author (read the cached version here).The whole affair was quite amusing–Forbes posted an article that someone must have guessed would be offensive, and then pulled it, but by then it was too late and screen captures were all over the internet. So this is the weak attempt to save face, apparently.

Forbes wants to assure you that by “career woman” they don’t mean someone “minding a cash register,” they mean a college educated lady making at least thirty thousand a year. She’s going to resent making more than you, if she does, or she’ll resent making less than you, if she does. If she has to stay home with the kids, she’ll be bitter. If she has kids, she’ll be sad. Apparently, “wives’ employment does correlate positively to divorce rates,” and Forbes missed the “correlation is not causation” lecture in general psych because the author goes on to list the evidence for the destruction of the modern marriage courtesy of the “career woman.”

“When your spouse works outside the home, chances increase they’ll meet someone they like more than you.”

Because, of course, women need to stay at home and look after the children. We’re far too flighty to be trusted in the outside world–we might be dazzled by the colours. What ever happened to not dipping your nib in the office ink? I love how Forbes is just assuming here that women have no integrity, that it’s impossible to work closely with people and not fall madly in lust with them.

And, of course, sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. If women leave the house and meet other people, presumably men are capable of doing the same.

“According to a wide-ranging review of the published literature, highly educated people are more likely to have had extra-marital sex…”

It’s interesting that two of Forbes’ points are based on sexuality. The point above assumes that women can’t leave the house without dropping their pants. The next cements the assumption that extramartial sex is a problem.

Well…is it?

It depends on the marriage, and the people doing the sexing. But I wouldn’t jump to assume that it is a problem, especially since a large proportion of the polyamorous community is highly educated. Perhaps the real issue is that education opens the mind to social and sexual exploration, whether or not one is a “career woman”. After all, Forbes grudgingly admits that it’s “highly educated people” who are more prone to shenanigans. Therefore presumably highly educated husbands are doing their fair share of extramarital boinking–why isn’t this being discussed?

The article goes on to stress that you are less likely to have kids, once again assuming that everyone wants them. I suppose if one went into a relationship with someone who wanted kids, it could be a point of tension. But can’t two adults decide to lay their priorities elsewhere?

The only part of the article that vaguely makes sense is the assertion that when labour is divided in a household, all members tend to be happy because all the work is getting done. The article also suggested that it didn’t matter who was working outside and who was working inside, so perhaps marrying career women is only bad if you’re a career man.

While listing a slew of studies, he curiously seems to have difficulty citing a study which says precisely that career women are the issue. It seems like this would be a difficult thing to prove when the issue revolves around a household where both partners are heavily involved in their careers. Which partner is it that’s causing the problem? The career woman, the career man, or both? Women with higher working hours may put a stress on the marriage, but the author doesn’t say exactly how high these working hours are, or what other factors might be involved. The Johnson study the author cites indicates that marriages where both partners work outside the home are more likely to end in divorce–not surprising if both partners are unable to dedicate time to their marriage.

Indeed, the whole article is a soup of very traditional assumptions about marriage and family values. I know plenty of professional childfree polyamorous couples who have beautiful, strong, wonderful marriages. Both primary partners work outside the home. And somehow they make things work. Curiously, Forbes hasn’t turned to alternative models of marriage in discussing the problems with marriage. Presumably they are of the opinion that there is only one type of marriage which can possibly be successful…which is interesting when one considers our current divorce rate.

At the end of the article, a study suggesting that married people are generally healthier is mentioned. I love the addendum, though: “A word of caution, though: As with any social scientific study, it’s important not to confuse correlation with causation. In other words, just because married folks are healthier than single people, it doesn’t mean that marriage is causing the health gains.”

Poorly edited article? The author appears to be contradicting himself, asserting at the top of the article that a correlation is causation with a series of supporting points, and then denying himself at the bottom of the piece. Someone really ought to fix that.

Is it the fearsome “career woman” who is destroying the modern marriage? Or is it a more systemic problem in society?

[career woman]